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Pope’s butler, 2nd layman face trial in theft case

- Associated Press - Monday, August 13, 2012

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A Vatican judge on Monday ordered the pope's butler and a fellow lay employee to stand trial in the scandal of pilfered documents from Pope Benedict XVI's private apartment.

The indictment accused Paolo Gabriele, the butler under arrest at the Vatican since May, of grand theft.

While the Vatican insisted throughout the investigation that Mr. Gabriele was the only person under investigation, the indictment also orders trial for Claudio Sciarpelletti. He is a layman in the Secretariat of State and is charged with aiding and abetting Mr. Gabriele.

The scandal has embarrassed the Vatican, exposing infighting at high church levels, primarily involving Italian prelates.

The Vatican has promised a public trial. No date was immediately announced, but officials said it would be no earlier than late September. The Vatican tribunal returns from summer recess on Sept. 20.

Judge Piero Antonio Bonnet ruled that there was no evidence to indict Mr. Sciarpelletti — a computer expert in the secretary of state's office who knows Mr. Gabriele — on a charge of revealing secrets and insufficient evidence for a charge of grand theft.

There had been widespread speculation about the possibility of a mole in the secretary of state's office since some of the leaked documents seemed aimed at casting doubt at Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's ability to be the Vatican's No. 2 as secretary of state.

Mr. Gabriele, who is married, lives with his family in Vatican City. After several weeks in isolation in a Vatican security cell, he was released to house arrest over the summer.

Mr. Sciarpelletti's office was searched on May 24, hours after Mr. Gabriele's arrest, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters.

Mr. Sciarpelletti was arrested and spent one night in a Vatican security cell but was quickly released when it appeared clear that his role wasn't a key one in the case, Father Lombardi said. The Vatican steadfastly had insisted the only known suspect was Mr. Gabriele.

"You can't speak of an accomplice in any way, but he was an acquaintance who could help Gabriele" in the butler's activities, Father Lombardi said. The indictment noted that in Mr. Sciarpelletti's desk was found a plain white envelope, sealed, with "Personal P. Gabriele" on the front and with the Secretariat of State's stamp on the back.

Mr. Sciarpelletti has been suspended, with pay, from his job, the spokesman said.

If Mr. Gabriele is convicted, a sentence could run from one to six years, Father Lombardi said, but that depends "on any possible pardon" from the pope, the spokesman added.

"It's premature to speak of this now," Father Lombardi said of the possible criminal sentence.

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